Cenex helps utilities create hydrogen vehicle infrastructure
Cenex, a non-profit organisation, has partnered with two utility companies on creating a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The company, which helps others to reduce carbon emissions through innovation, will be assisting two gas distribution networks (GDNs) - Northern Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities - to meet the UK’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Opting to pursue hydrogen as a clean alternative energy source, Cenex is working with the two GDNs to plan the necessary infrastructure that would make the plan feasible.
This plan will need to factor in the numerous complexities of a utility company’s fleet: a range of vehicle sizes, weights and power ratios, as well as specialised onboard equipment, will require a robust solution - one which Cenex considers beyond electric vehicles’ (EVs) capabilities for some time.
Hydrogen: fuel of the future
In addition to being one of the most abundant elements on the planet and a truly clean energy source (the only byproduct is water), hydrogen possesses almost three times more power than gasoline by volume.
However, despite this potential, advanced hydrogen fuel cells remain generally unavailable. Therefore, Cenex will be designing mandatory transport routes for the hydrogen fleets (using available technology) with integrated refuelling points along the way.
It is hoped by the company that the effective organisation of this logistical system will show the GDNs what hydrogen vehicles can achieve and encourage further development.
“Cenex will use its experience in hydrogen transport and infrastructure to assist Northern Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities in measuring the total energy demand of their fleet, including emergency response vehicles,” said the company on its website.
“This is the first step towards real-world hydrogen vehicle trials and zero-emission fleets”.
Drawing a roadmap for zero-emission fleets
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to enshrine its 2050 environmental pledges into law. Therefore, companies across practically every industry, but particularly the energy sector, have been devising new ways to bring their business into line.
Sarah Cooper-Birkenhead, Fleet and Plant Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said:
“Gas distributors have a crucial role to play in helping the UK meet its net-zero carbon ambitions. At Northern Gas Networks, we are aiming for 50% of our fleet to be made up of ultra-low emission vehicles, including hydrogen vehicles, by 2026.
“By scoping the practicalities of running a hydrogen-powered fleet, this project can help gas distributors make the transition more effectively.”
Similarly, Lucy Mason, Innovation Manager at Wales & West Utilities, added that hydrogen’s potential to make every aspect of the energy production process greener was a valuable asset and one which deserves development.
“This project is a great opportunity for us to understand the role hydrogen vehicles can play in our own fleet and help us deliver for the communities that rely on us across Wales and South West England.”
Finally, Anthony Reid, Innovation Engineer at EIC, which is supporting Cenex in this endeavour, concluded:
“This project represents the commencement of an ambitious journey, for the gas distribution networks, towards greener business operations.
“In the runup to this project being kicked off, Cenex has continually demonstrated its wide-ranging expertise and established its importance in aiding the UK transition towards large scale low carbon vehicle deployment.”
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly